Channing Day was a team player who was “something special” both on and off the pitch, her former football coach has said.
The 25-year old, who “lived” for sport and her dream of joining the Army, played for a girls' football team in Newtownards until she joined the TA.
Kim Funston, the former coach of Northland Raiders, said her death in Afghanistan has left her friends in “utter shock” describing her as a “dream to coach”.
“Channing was a committed player as she was in every thing she did in life— I’m sure she was as committed in the Army,” she said.
Mrs Funston said the two big things in Channing’s life were sport and joining the Army — even at 15 years old.
“She was an enthusiastic girl, who always had a smile on her face when she spoke about joining the Army,” she said.
“It was something she was looking forward to. It wasn’t something just to fill a gap, it was her dream as far as she was concerned.
“It was what she wanted to do, where she wanted to go and what she wanted to be a part of.
“She played with us until she left.
The 52-year-old from Holywood, who helped to run the club with her husband Stephen, said Channing was a promising player “who was always smiling”.
“She was part of an U18 squad that travelled to England for an Umbro tournament in 2004 and it was a massive thing for everyone to be involved,” she said.
“Channing was something special, she was part of the team and a massive part of it.
“She gave her all on the pitch.
“She never had a cross word, everything she was involved in she gave 100% to and that is what she was probably like in the Army when she was out in Afghanistan.”
Former team-mate Nikki McWilliams (24) said she was a “great player”.
“She was very talented — a good all-rounder on the pitch,” she said.
“Channing was very popular in the club and was a great player.
“She was a warm person and knew she wanted to be in the Army even then. So she did fulfil her dream by joining the TA and going out to Afghanistan.
“Her death has just shocked us all. It is hard to believe.”
Mrs Funston said people are devastated by the news.
“She epitomised everything that Raiders stood for at the time, giving your all as a team,” she said.
“I didn’t hear until I got into work. My daughter called to tell me and it was just awful.
“Channing was just loved. She was an outstanding person.”
Channing showed her true grit on the school sports field
By Michael McHugh
Channing Day harboured a schoolgirl dream of joining the Army, a teacher at her former school said.
As a bubbly and sporty teenager in Northern Ireland she completed work experience with the forces in 2002 and worked well with everybody there, Strangford College acting principal Paul Maxwell added.
She was always physically fit and achieved top grades in PE, excelling at gymnastics, trampolining and netball.
Mr Maxwell said: “She always said she wanted to join the Army, she was pretty much focused on wanting to join the Army.”
He said her sporting prowess revealed her gritty determination to succeed.
“It was not just that she was good but that she always showed commitment, she stayed after school and did all the practice,” he added.
Ms Day (25) was from Comber, Co Down, near Belfast, and attended the nearby Strangford College the year after it was established — from 1998 to 2003.
The integrated education movement in Northern Ireland at that time existed amidst a prevailing system which encouraged children to attend mainly Protestant state-controlled schools or mainly Catholic schools run by the Church, a legacy which some have criticised for helping entrench sectarianism from a young age.
“It was a leap of faith to send your child to an integrated school of that nature,” said Mr Maxwell.
The acting principal added: “I can remember Channing as if it was yesterday, somebody we remember as being young... and still so young.”
I look at what she did with absolute awe, says Military Cross winner
By Victoria O'Hara
A decorated Army hero has described the role of medics like Channing Day who serve in war- torn countries as “angels” who save lives every single day in the front-line.
Doug Beattie MC, Capt of the Royal Irish Regiment, said soldiers look at what people like the Comber woman did “in awe” praising them as among the bravest serving in the Army.
“Channing was a combat medical technician,” he said.
“In Afghanistan regardless of whether you are a man or a woman that role will see her out on the ground in the thick of the fighting with the infantrymen, the Para Regiment.
“Her role will be in the heat of battle in the thick of the action to deliver aid to anyone who requires it whether they are military, civilian, enemy or friend. She is on the front-line and will not distinguish who she would give that first-aid to.”
Capt Beattie (right) who toured Afghanistan in 2006 and 2008 said, although Channing would have been armed for her personal protection, her primary role would be to help the soldiers.
“I have to say this, the soldiers look at these people, it doesn’t matter if they are male or female and look at them in absolute awe because when the bullets are flying, the explosions are happening all around and men are screaming for help it is the medics you see running across the open space to deliver first-aid and Channing Day would have been one of those medics.
“I would say this without equivocation in any shape or form that some of the bravest people that we have in Afghanistan at this moment in time who are in the front-line are medics and many of them are female.”
Capt Beattie, who is also a military author, said the deaths would have a huge impact on the unit they serve with.
“I’ve served with them. I’ve had them with me and they are absolute angels and they save lives day in day out,” he said.
“I lost my medic in 2008 in the very same area that Channing Day died and it tore a hole through our unit when we lost our medic.They are a focal point. People go to them for toothache, headache, they just link in. It is like having your own pastoral care and many are very young.
“The patrol who have lost this young girl and lad will have felt their loss deeply.
“It is worthwhile to highlight the dedication that young men and these young women show on a day-to-day basis is absolutely incredible.
“And although we only hear when one sadly is killed, their heroism is happening every single day. It is just incredible.”